Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chapter 4

I think in this instance, Kolbert’s use of the butterfly as an example for the destruction of global warming is a good one based on her explanation previous to her information. The fact that Europeans were collecting butterflies for centuries shows that people care about things that are being destroyed by our actions. Using such a figure as Charles Darwin can bring about any biologically related scientific point easier than using basically any other scientist.

As far her writing, I still like the little things she adds. For instance, describing someone’s facial hair in relation to a movie star is not usually seen in a science book. That makes this much easier to relate to.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Field Notes 2

Kolbert presents a lot of strong evidence in proving that global warming exists. I think the findings that Co2 levels increasing causing a blanket of warmth over the Earth is a pretty impactful fact. Also, reports that the ice sheets are no longer stable, but instead floating on a layer of water.

However, though I am a believer that global warming does exist, I am beginning to believe that this book is more of a persuasion than a factual presentation of the issue of global warming. Though all of these facts Kolbert gives are great observations, I am waiting for a defense. What angles against global warming could be presented? Even if the angles could be presented in a light that made them look bad compared to her angle on the book, it would still show WHY global warming is right.

As far as her writing is concerned, descriptions are the key. If there is any question of what she is talking about, it will eventually be explained with further reading. Her random information is used to break the reading up well, making a scientific book seem more like a person-to-person story.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Field Notes

1. The book starts off in startling fashion. Statistics about global warming from the Charney report, such as the disappearance of the glaciers by 2030 give an instant edginess to it. When she flies into Alaska and the woman tells her that dogs were just wearing masks to battle the smog, it sets the tone of what the author is looking for.
2. I’m a little confused with something on page 18. Is “five P.M.” correct? It looked funny to me, but what do I know. Overall, her writing is outstanding. It’s solid and very easy to follow for a scientific book, simplifying global warming to a more personal level.
3. Kolbert’s time spent with Romanovsky was crucial to the book. For a guy who has lived in Alaska since 1967 to say personally that it’s getting warmer made the first part of this book much better.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

And As We Look Into The Sun...

Among the many things my parents urged me not to do when I was younger, one was to never look directly into the sun. It was so fascinating with its brilliance and colors. Being the clever one, I found that it must help to wear sunglasses when I gaze into the sun. However, they still yelled at me. Why? It can’t be that, right? What does looking into the sun do to you?

The theory that looking into the sun can cause blindness is spot on. It can cause a lot more damage, though. One condition the sun creates is called solar retinopathy, or the burning of the retina in your eye. The problem occurs not from the brightness of the star, but its massive outputs of ultraviolet radiation. The overdoses can cause the macula, the part of the eye that focuses on central vision instead of your peripherals, to fail after even brief exposures to the sun. Though the damage is sufficient, unless the parts of the eye are destroyed, they can mainly be repaired by medicine.

What if the sun is being eclipsed by the Moon? With special glasses, the eclipse can be viewed safely. However, without protection when our Moon passes by the sun, you can become instantly blind.

Even though the sun is damaging, some people actually believe it helps them. In a practice called sungazing, people believe the sun provides nourishment to their bodies. One man, Hira Ratan Manek, claims he hasn’t had to use food for nutrients in nearly 15 years. People also believe sunlight can be converted into energy in something similar to photosynthesis. Of course, none of this is scientifically proven.

So, when your parents tell you to not look at the sun NO MATTER WHAT, listen to them!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mr. Hawking

Discover’s article regarding the life and achievements of physicist Steven Hawking was an excellent profile. Though it was very long, I felt it went through his life very methodically. If I were to give it a grade, it would have to be a 90. The lede is terrific, setting the scene of an enormous figure, only to have it be someone who can barely move his hand enough to signal his speech machine. I give that 20 of 20. For content, if there was anything I needed to know about Hawking, I know it now. From his days of college partying to marriage and contracting ALS to his theories, no stone was left unturned in his life. That also receives a 20 of 20. The writing structure and organization both receive full credit as well. His life was spelled out beautifully from the start to today, and the writing was great. The only quarrel I have with this article is the clarity of the scientific information. I don’t really know what half his material was, and though I understand it was concerning astrophysics, it may have been better if it was simplified. That gets a 10. Overall, it was a great and interesting article.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

That Ringing Sound

We live in a sonic world, immersed in vibrations that stimulate microscopic hair cells deep inside our ears. This unseen energy influences our mood, our learning, even our health. We experience it as comforting music, as information-laden speech, or—all too often—as irritating noise, a by-product of our increasingly mechanized world. Despite all the ways sound affects us, we often let it slip unnoticed into the background of our lives. Hoping to understand it better, I set out to explore the mysteries of sound in the course of one day.

At 6:50 a.m., my alarm clock begins the assault on my ears as the groggy gray matter between them is rudely yanked toward consciousness. My eyes shoot open, and as awareness slowly crystallizes, a single idea crowds out all others: Make the noise stop. My right hand knows just what to do and immediately puts an end to the awful blare.

I like this lede because the writer puts you in all of the situations of sound associated with your everyday life. Things like waking up to the alarm clock to the busy subway, to a silent room in your own home are all things you don’t think of when you go through the day. The intro also makes me want to find out what her sound-filled journey was like, so it successfully drew me in to read the rest of the article.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Lede

It is twilight time on Saturn.

Shadows lengthened to stretch thousands of miles across the planet’s famous rings this summer as they slowly tilted edge-on to the Sun, which they do every 15 years, casting into sharp relief every bump and wiggle and warp in the buttery and wafer-thin bands that are the solar system’s most popular scenic attraction.

From her metaphorical perch on the bridge of the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn for five years, Carolyn Porco, who heads the camera team, is ecstatic about the view. “It’s another one of those things that make you pinch yourself and say, ‘Boy am I lucky to be around now,’ ” Dr. Porco said. “For the first time in 400 years, we’re seeing Saturn’s rings in three dimensions.”

I like this lede for a couple of reasons. First, the structure is very good with a nice variety. It starts with a catchy one-liner to get the reader an idea of what they're reading. The second graf has a very vivid description of the rings, and the third has a good quote, setting the reader up for the remainder of the story. The topic itself intrigues me, making this lede even better.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Big Blue Wasp

I almost died from a bee sting once. One stung my ankle while being stirred up by a lawn mower. Soon after, my head began to lighten and I passed out on the lawn. I woke up on my grandmother’s couch with an ice pack on my forehead, and from that day my fear of being stung has remained.

Back home, there is a blue-looking wasp that I cannot identify like the rest of villainous pests that fly around. The other day, I found that same wasp in Plattsburgh while standing on my front porch, so after swatting at it and ducking back inside, I needed to figure out its identity. This particular wasp I actually knew, but I didn’t know I knew it. It’s a mud dauber, a wasp that builds in barns, attics, garages and any other dry and quiet location.

There are three different kinds of mud daubers; the organ pipe mud dauber, the black and yellow mud dauber, and the iridescent blue mud dauber. Since this particular wasp was blue, I’m guessing it’s the third choice, labeled scientifically as Chalybion californicum. They like to build nests made of none other than earthy substances, and will re-use the nests for years if untouched.

Though I dislike them, there are some fascinating and startling facts about these relatively non-aggressive insects. Their biggest threat to humans is not via the stinger, but by their choice of nesting. Some of their favorite spots to nest are inside small tubes in plane engines. The daubers’ presence was confidently named the ultimate cause for the crash of Birgenair Flight 301 in 1996, killing nearly 200 people.

The mud daubers also prey on one of the deadliest creatures in the world; the black widow spider. This insect has the venom to easily paralyze and kill a human, but the mud dauber can attack it, paralyze it with its sting, and harvest the spider to the nest for the larva to feed on.

I hate wasps, bees, or anything else to do with stinging that can hurt me. However, it is comforting to know that these intimidating blue bugs flying around are actually not aggressive, mind their own business in secluded buildings, and kill deadly spiders.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This Flower

I found this orange flower in someone’s yard while walking Brinkerhoff St. on Sunday. After searching the flower’s appearance for a good amount of time, I concluded the only match I can find is a flower called the Aster (Diplopappus Cass). The flower was included in a group of others just like it. The petals of the flower are thin and numerous, and the stem is relatively short. The species of flower originally was located in both North America and Eurasia, but now is primarily located across the ocean. The word Aster comes from the Greek word astror, meaning star.
After further examination, one Aster is located in New York and Canada (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii), or the New York Aster.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Flu Link

Here is the link to the previous story.

The Flu

It seems to be that time of year again: flu season. Apparently, the worry for this season is much higher than previous years because of the H1N1, or swine flu strain. The article, "Preparing for a Stressful Flu Season," shows families the precautions they should be taking and the symptoms they should be looking for to prevent a disaster of an illness.

Although we are in college and should have nothing to worry about, this problem could be a big one this fall. With the main target age for the disease to be from the range of children to young adults (college kids), this could pose a serious issue for not only this campus, but campuses across the country. According to the article, approximately 195 million vaccines will become available on October 15. However, with allergy season in full swing, a body's immune system is battling and may not be able to fend off a cold.

What if the disease comes a little sooner than expected? Sure, keeping clean and avoiding contact with others will help, but would it be enough to stop such a powerful disease such as H1N1? There aren't many worse places to try and protect from disease than a college campus. Even if strict guidelines for preventing a disease are posted frequently across the town, many of the students would not pay attention.

This poses a big problem for Plattsburgh and many other campuses, especially if the disease surfaces. Once here, the swine flu could either be thrown under the rug or made into a large panic. Hopefully the disease does not make it here, but if it does, we will have to follow the usual cleansing and vaccination tactics that are used every year for the flu.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Breath Detector

This article proves that the medical field is the most amazing in the world. Cancer is one of the most devastating diseases, affecting most people in one way or another. The discovery of detection by someone’s breath is one step towards battling back. The article states that someone who has lung cancer has a different breath that someone who’s healthy. How these doctors designed the tool to detect the difference is incredible. The gold sensors in the device are five-billionths of a meter wide. Articles like this are showing how technologically advanced we are becoming, especially in the field of medicine. Hopefully this leads to bigger and better things in the fight against cancer

Warming Up

The article on global warming slowing the arctic cooling trend is startling to say the least. The fact that humans have altered 4,000 years of cooling in a little over 100 years is not only remarkable, but terrifying as well. Dr. Overpeck’s comment that the next ice age could be skipped altogether further strengthens the fact that we need to act on the issue immediately. If humans have the power to change the entire climate, there is no reason why we cannot change it back over time. Though the damage may be already done, there must still be time to act.